Systematic review: the effect of right hemicolectomy for cancer on postoperative bowel function

Support Care Cancer. 2020 Oct;28(10):4549-4559. doi: 10.1007/s00520-020-05519-5. Epub 2020 May 20.


Background: Right-sided cancer accounts for approximately 30% of bowel cancer in women and 22% in men. Colonic resection can cause changes in bowel function which affect daily activity. The aims are to assess the impact of right hemicolectomy for cancer on bowel function and to identify useful treatment modalities for managing bowel dysfunction after right hemicolectomy.

Method: The review was conducted in line with PRISMA. Eligible studies evaluated the impact of right hemicolectomy on bowel function in those treated for colorectal neoplasia or assessed the effect of surgical technique or other intervention on bowel function after right hemicolectomy. Right hemicolectomy for inflammatory bowel disease or benign cases only were excluded. Articles were limited to studies on human subjects written in English published between January 2008 and December 2018.

Results: The searches identified 7531 articles. Nine articles met the inclusion criteria, of which eight were cohort studies and one was a randomised trial. Loose stool, increased bowel frequency and/or nocturnal defaecation following right-sided colectomy occurs in approximately one in five patients. Some of these symptoms may improve spontaneously with time. Bile acid malabsorption and/or small bowel bacterial overgrowth may be the cause for chronic dysfunction. Some studies report that no or little difference in outcome between right-sided and rectal resections likely suggests poor function after right-sided resection.

Conclusion: Right hemicolectomy can result in changes to bowel function. Patients should be counselled preoperatively, and follow-up should be designed to identify and effectively treat significantly altered bowel function.

Keywords: Adenocarcinoma; Bowel function; Colorectal cancer; Colorectal surgery; Gastrointestinal surgery; Right hemicolectomy.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Colectomy / adverse effects*
  • Colectomy / methods
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / complications*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / surgery
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology*
  • Treatment Outcome